Field Notes - Lisa Parsons

Field Notes

  • Sun, 16 Jun 2019 22:00:52 -0400

    A Summer Adventure

    A Summer Adventure in the Green River Gorge

    If you are looking for something fun to do on a hot (very hot) summer day, a trip to Hanging Gardens in the Green River Gorge is one of those off-the-beaten Path adventures.

    Getting there is half the adventure. Hanging Gardens is located in Southeast King County between Black Diamond and Enumclaw. The access is off of a country road that passes by a few houses and then continues on. It passes by future roads that currently are gated and lead to nowhere in particular. Locals know that the gate just pass the old gravel pit leads to Hanging Gardens. You’d barely register it as you drive by as there is a lonely gate with a few dirt pullouts beside the gate and across the road. There aren’t any official signs (last time I looked) so you have to use the information and directions on Outdoor Project’s website listed below.

    Once you find the trail, behind the gate, it is pretty straight forward. Follow the trail downward. It will hug along a chain link fence to the right for awhile (the city of Black Diamond’s water supply). Then it continues past a more open area before the trail narrows and enters the forest before dropping down more steeply to the river. As you descend the cedars grow taller. You catch glimpses of the white sandstone cliffs as you get closer to the river. At the end the trail emerges onto a rocky beach and across the river is a three hundred foot sandstone cliff face with ferns, bushes, and trees growing out of pockets of sandstone.

    Its one of those places that can make you feel like a Huckleberry Finn as you adventure off the beaten path and into the wild river corridor. When the water is low it is a kid friendly destination. There are hanging gardens on the cliff walls, swallows darting through the air, and round rocks to skip at the water’s edge. At low water you can hike along the shoreline and see different geology exposed such as coal walls, sandstone shelves, and other rock formations. If you are lucky you might catch the flight of an eagle, osprey, or Kingfisher. If you are even luckier you might catch a glimpse of a river otter.

    It is usually safe to go there to swim in mid July and August. Visit the American Whitewater website for up to date information on the water level flowing through the Gorge. Anything above 300 cfs is too high for swimming. Always consider a life jacket and if you are unsure if it is safe to swim ordon’t go. Also never go in the water to swim in the spring and early summer.

    For detailed information on directions to get to Hanging Gardens and trail information visit Outdoor Project’s “Green River Gorge Swimming Hole”

  • Sun, 10 Feb 2019 21:33:18 -0500


    When I was invited to exhibit my photographs at Green River Community College as part of a group show called Evanescence.  I jumped at the opportunity.  To show my conservation photography of the Green River Gorge at the college named after the river was a priority for me.  Not just because of the name but also because the college had a Natural Resources and Forestry program that I hope will become an integral part of the conservation and restoration effort of the Green River Gorge Greenway.

    My first thoughts about exhibiting my work come from my literal side.  My work is a documentary to promote conservation.  The goals of my exhibitions are to raise awareness of the Green River Gorge Greenway and promote conservation.  The idea of showing as part of a “more conceptual art centered” theme, at first, seemed incongruous with my mission. Yet it is my profound conception of place through an artistic lens that feeds my passion for conservation.  That passion is rooted in how I see the natural world. 

    Evanescence. n. The event of fading and gradually vanishing from sight.

    Neil Berkowitz, Thelma Harris and Lisa Parsons respond to the idea of place uniquely from an ephemeral and abstracted sense of being in layered digital photography manipulation, to reflections on time and personal history through dimensional Polaroid wall and pedestal installations, to preservation of our natural world in the documentation of landscape. Together, these artists play off of each other’s profound conception of place and time through the lens and experimentation of photography, making the fleeting nature of time tangible.

    Evanescence: Neil Berkowitz, Thelma Harris, and Lisa Parsons

    February 14th – March 14th, 2019

    Artist Panel Discussion and Closing Reception

    Thursday, March 14th, 12-1pm

     Discovering the Natural World Through the Lens

    My time in the river helped me learn more about the rhythm of the river.  The Green river isn’t just a river.  It is a multi-layered story of currents, water, seasons, shorelines, habitat, stone, fish, wildlife, forests, and humans.  All the elements that make up the watershed create the river.  The story unfolds in the myriad of springs and streams that flow from drops of water that begin as snow or rain.  The springs and streams flow into the river giving it shape and form.  The water forms the carved sandstone edges, the forest around the river, and the currents that follow the channels downstream.

    My discovery of the river started as seeing it as one body of water but as I started exploring the river by hiking through the fourteen miles of river gorge and bushwhacking, off and on trail, along the uplands; the picture became more detailed.  Layers of imagery emerged from the landscape and the river from the tiniest flowers to the towering three hundred foot sandstone cliffs.  Interwoven in the experience were encounters with black bear, bob cat, cougar, river otter, osprey, eagle, and King fishers.  I’ve learned to see footprints in the mud and identify scat (poop) that tells stories of elusive animals that call the river gorge home.  Often all that is seen if you know where to look is the footprints they have left behind. 

    Salmon play a central theme in the river and in my conservation work.  Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead pose the question of whether we can do what is needed now to protect this species by protecting the river.  Through documenting the annual migration of the salmon I’ve learned so much about their journey through the river gorge. In the autumn I’ve swam with the salmon with my underwater camera capturing glimpses of their migration home.  Above the water I’ve silently watched their bodies explode with energy that propels them up the last few feet of Icy creek to spawn and then to die.  Their bodies, half in and half out of the water, lying on the rocks where they have laid their eggs.  The last breathes leaving their rhythmic mouths.

    The forest at the edges of the gorge are a mix of near old growth towering western red cedars with branches that bend with the air currents.  Douglas fir and Hemlock also crowd around the river corridor.  In some places older trees remain.  In others young forests recover from logging or floods.  Alder and native cherry mix with the evergreens along with giant maples. 

    In autumn the giant maples glow brilliantly orange and yellow, their leaves floating like sheets of colored paper and landing on the forest floor.  The last burst of color before the long winter of grey and barren branches.

    Winter brings solitude and wildness as the river pulses against its confining edges. Barren branches stand dark against the backdrop of the grey sky. The water glows green as the only bright color in the dormant landscape. Wild water churns, boils, and spills over submerged rocks. It also brings solitude. Sometimes ice forms along cliff side waterfalls and along slack water in eddies and side channels.

    Spring.  Bright Trillium bursting out of the ground like precious jewels that you can never take for granted.  They are greeted by the bright green unfolding fiddle head ferns, vine maple leaves, and the pink blossoms of salmon berry as the forest comes back to life.  When the river flows are high from snowmelt or heavy rains whitewater rafters and kayakers can be seen dancing along the currents, challenging lines through rapids called Mercury, the Nozzle, and Pipeline.  Their bright colored boats and clothes contrast against the layers of green in the river and surrounding landscape.

    Summer settles in as a welcome relief to the endless months of rain.  The river recedes.  The flow is turned down by an upstream dam to a trickle of currents that barely riffle down the rocky drops before deep languid pools with sandstone edges.  The sun is hot enough to counter the snowmelt cold of the green water.  I’m invited to swim its lazy currents, and explore the sandstone edged shorelines.  It is friendly and a maze to be discovered as more is revealed below the winter water line. 

    Mysteries are revealed.  Wood dams show where forces of current and high water have moved decaying forest downstream.  Carved fluid sandstone exhibits nature’s sculptor, water, deepening the walls of the gorge for a millennia.  Sandstone boulders poke out of deep pools where crawfish hide in water filled pockets.  River otters fish and then eat atop the rocks and then discard the remains; evidence of their presence.   Rope swings hanging silently revealing the transient presence of teenagers looking for a cool swimming hole to play in summer heat.  Primitive trails down to the river lead to fishermen casting their lines into secret fishing holes.

    So, yes, the photos are meant to promote conservation but they also tell the story of the many rivers within the river and about my time as explorer, photographer, activist, and artist.  It is part of my story that is vanishing and fading from sight. The images are the evidence of my passage.  My hope is that the Green River Gorge remains a wild river gorge.  It will change with the seasons and natural rhythms but hopefully remain wild for others to discover and continue the story.

    Please share your images and stories of the Green River Gorge on the Friends of the Green River Gorge Facebook page.  Become part of the river’s conservation story.

  • Sun, 27 Jan 2019 21:30:14 -0500

    Upcoming Photography Exhibition

    Evanescence: Neil Berkowitz, Thelma Harris, and Lisa Parsons

    February 14th – March 14th, 2019

    Artist Panel Discussion and Closing Reception

    Thursday, March 14th, 12-1pm

    Evanescence. n. The event of fading and gradually vanishing from sight. Neil Berkowitz, Thelma Harris and Lisa Parsons respond to the idea of place uniquely from an ephemeral and abstracted sense of being in layered digital photography manipulation, to reflections on time and personal history through dimensional Polaroid wall and pedestal installations, to preservation of our natural world in the documentation of landscape. Together, these artists play off of each other’s profound conception of place and time through the lens and experimentation of photography, making the fleeting nature of time tangible.

    Through my passion to promote conservation of the Green River Gorge Greenway I developed a love of conservation photography. I bought my first digital camera in 2001 and began documenting the unique beauty and wildness of the Green River Gorge. It has been 18 years and I’m still surprised by something new or something that has changed along the river corridor. I’ve changed cameras over the years but not my mission to document and preserve the Gorge.

    The photos weren’t just “pretty pictures” but something more. A documentary of a moment in time when the river still supports wildlife and fisheries. A time when underwater springs still flow out of the hillsides and contribute cold water into a vital system. A time when trees fill the rim of the Gorge and sandstone cliffs create solitude in a river gorge near over 2 million people.

    Time is fleeting. Our time to act to conserve the Green River Gorge is not. Look around you and you’ll see opportunities lost and opportunities taken to conserve important aspects of our interconnected landscape.

    I’ve worked with stakeholders; King County; Washington State Parks; Forterra; Black Diamond; and others to bring millions of dollars into the middle Green River watershed. With funding from grants and other sources we were able to buy up key lands along the Gorge and restore habitat, but there is still more we can do to keep the Gorge intact.

    Part of my outreach to promote conservation is to take the images of this rugged gorge to the community and to decision makers to show why it is worth directing effort towards conservation. On February 14th I will be exhibiting some of my images as part of a group show at the Green River Community College from February 14 thru March 14th. Please join me on March 14th for a discussion panel and the closing day of the exhibit to learn more about my work and the works of the two other photographers; Neil Berkowitz and Thelma Harris.

  • Sun, 25 Nov 2018 21:30:47 -0500

    A Drop of Water...

    There’s a drop of water on the wall
    And the drop’s about to fall
    And it falls into a trickle
    And the trickle’s flowing down
    Down, down, to the ground
    And the moss begins to grow
    Watch, watch, watch watch the water flow
    And watch the current become a stream

    Lyrics from “Drop of Water”

    By Dana Lyons

    Join King County Parks 
    on Saturday December 8th 
    9am to 1pm. 

    Enter at the end of SE 248th (the MV LIbrary road) 

    “King County Parks recently acquired a home site in the middle of Cedar Creek Park. Now we need your help to turn the former home site back into high quality habitat. Come plant native trees and shrubs before invasive weeds move in!”

    If you’re interested in participating it is important that you email
    Brian Lund at King County Parks

    How Rivers Form

    Most rivers begin life as drops of water creating a tiny stream running down a mountain slope or as an underground spring of water that collects below the surface of the earth and then emerges where the slope of the land meets the air.  They are fed by melting snow and ice, or by rainwater running off the land. The water follows the easiest course through channels, cracks, and folds in the land as it flows downhill. Small streams meet and join together, growing larger and larger until the flow can be called a river.

    The Green river has some major tributaries that contribute water into the larger river.  One of these creeks or streams is Jenkins Creek.  Jenkins Creek flows through Covington and Maple Valley from Lake Wilderness and Lake Lucerne. Another branch comes from the north near Shadow Lake. It is part of a system of tributaries that provide water to the Green River.  What happens in these tributaries affects the entire river system and eventually Puget Sound.

    Taking care of our tributaries is critical to improving and maintaining cold clean water, salmon habitat, and consistent water quantity in the main Green river.  Many of our urban and suburban streams no longer support health fish populations. Jenkins creek has become one of those streams. Yet, looking at other areas as a model we can work to reverse decades of mismanagement and restore these vital tributaries that flow into the Green-Duwamish river.

    In 2005 a landowner, Mo Munch, sold five acres on both sides of the Jenkins Creek to remain as open space and habitat in perpetuity. He talked about when Jenkins creek used to host a large salmon run. He told a story of when the bears used to catch salmon in the creek and feast on them along the shoreline of his property. Another land owner, the Burgesses, adjacent to him also sold their property which consisted of two houses and thirty acres with a beautiful forested pond and two branches of Jenkins creek running through the property.

    Today their property, along with an additional 94 acres, is owned by King County Parks and is now called Cedar Creek Park.  Thirteen years have passed since the initial sale of the properties and it now time for the community to get involved in restoring the properties and connecting them to the upper section of Cedar Creek Park.  Make history on December 8th by participating in a groundbreaking restoration event.  This will be a great opportunity to visit the lower property, participate in creating the park, and learning more about a future vision for the area.

    Just like drops of water form a river each of us can be part of a larger groundswell by volunteering to restore, protect, and enhance the wild spaces and waterways in our own communities.

  • Sun, 21 Oct 2018 21:27:30 -0400

    Orca Whales and Chinook Salmon

    What do Orcas and Chinook Salmon Have in Common?

    They both need clean water to survive. This summer we were struck by the powerful images of a our Puget Sound Orcas carrying a dead baby whale around for two weeks. It tugged at our heart strings and cries rang out to save the Orcas.

    The initiative to save Puget Sound goes beyond just the body of water that constitutes the Sound. Our mountains hold snow that then melts and flows down our streams into rivers that then flow into Puget Sound carrying clean water and nutrients seaward.

    What happens upstream has a direct impact on the water quality and habitat in our region. That, in turn, has an impact on our salmon, Orcas, humans, and other wildlife.

    The Green-Duwamish river watershed is one part of a vast network of river arteries that flow into Puget Sound. As a river that flows out of the Cascade foothills it has been tamed by the Howard Hanson dam which supplies the city of Tacoma with drinking water. Below the dam the river flows into the Green River Gorge. The Gorge, through a history of conservation efforts has remained relatively untouched along its 12 mile

    The morning was fresh and clear.  A soft white fog hung just above the trees down stream.  The sun lingered before reaching up above the trees.  There in the current was the constant rustle of the salmon as they staged in the river’s current and slack water.  I started capturing images in the shade.  As the sun rose, prisms of sunlight pierced the water and added light beneath the river’s surface.

    I watched as an ancient ritual replayed itself in the deep green waters of the Green River Gorge.  Salmon returning from the ocean.  Turning south into Puget Sound to enter the mouth of the Green-Duwamish river.  

    They return, having survived their journey.  They have escaped ocean predators.  They survived the pollution of the Duwamish river downstream (There is hope for the Duwamish).    They pushed up through the channelized canal of river lined with blackberry brambles through Tukwila, Kent, and Auburn (Regreening the Green River).  Then through the transitioning landscape from urban to rural farm land, and then finally forest as the river exits the gorge.  

    It is like a soft breath.  The air after a rainstorm.  A stretch upon awakening.  The water clears and the temperature of the water lowers as the shade of forest and sandstone cliffs rise along the shoreline.  Small and large springs tumble down from underground channels that surface as the landscape above, slopes towards the gorge.  The cold water springs feed the river with water all year round.

    The salmon come like they have millions of times before.  Pushing on through thousands of years of human history and a constantly changing landscape to the home of their ancestors before them.

    As I watch this ritual of renewal I realize that we can no longer take them for granted.  Each of us, as humans, can consciously change our own course and act as stewards of our river; our salmon; our shared future.

    The song that accompanies the video is called “Ancestors” by Bruce Cockburn.

    Where to see Chinook Salmon this weekend

    Current best place to view returning salmon in the Green River Gorge.  Kanaskat State Park along the trails that follow the river.  Grab a map at the entrance and explore the trails along the river and look for salmon.

    Learn how to identify Salmon:

    For more information on how you can help salmon and the Green-Duwamish River visit:

    Green River Gorge

    Washington State Parks Foundation.  Want to see Washington State Parks develop trails and purchase more land along the Green River Gorge Greenway?  You can donate to the Washington State Parks Foundation and designate the donation to be used for Green River Gorge State Park improvements.

    Black Diamond Historical Society.  Volunteer with the to clear trails and preserve historical areas along the Green River Gorge.

    Live Downstream?

    Want to help your river?  Volunteer at the Duwamish Alive Event on October 22nd:

    Contact King County Parks and volunteer on the Green-Duwamish River.  King County Parks

    Earthcorps hosts events on the Green-Duwamish.

    More technical information

    King County Salmon Recovery:

  • Mon, 10 Sep 2018 20:41:26 -0400

    #tdarutamaya after party! 1.5 years later we finally got back...

    #tdarutamaya after party! 1.5 years later we finally got back on our road bikes with our Ruta Maya jerseys. Only 72 miles and 4000 feet of climbing. Easy after the 1600 mile 6 Everest sized cumulative climbs. What did I realize? I really like mt. Biking more 😋 #rutamaya, tdaglobalcycling (at South Lake Tahoe, California)

  • Sun, 12 Aug 2018 22:00:53 -0400

    Hungry Beaver

    The Northwestern American Beaver

    Recently I visited the other Green River in Utah.  As we were setting up our whitewater rafts for a seven-day trip down the Desolation-Grey section of the Green we had a very unusual visit.  From across the river a beaver started swimming gracefully towards us.  His body and tail undulating fluidly through the water.  He made his way to the rocky beach and without hesitation lumbered onto land and nonchalantly walked by our boats and equipment on his way to some young cottonwood trees with bright green leaves.  He completely ignored us and instead focused on munching on his evening meal of cottonwood leaves.  We were able to stand just feet away from this allusive wild river creature and watch him eat his dinner.

    I’ve always been curious about the, often maligned, beaver.  I had an early morning glimpse of a beaver along the Green at Flaming Geyser State Park on the Green River in Washington.  That morning I heard a crack and saw a tree branch fall into the river from a riverside maple tree.  Then I watched as it began moving downstream at a pace far faster then the current. Upon closer inspection I realized that it was driven by a beaver.  He steered that branch into a small alcove created by a larger downed tree along the far shore of the river.  Then he proceeded to stuff that branch into the alcove where it disappeared. Unfortunately I wasn’t set up to take fast moving low light photos so I didn’t adequately capture this whole occurrence on an early morning photo shoot.  

    They have this drive to dam water.  Why?   Beavers create refuges in deeper pond water to create an escape from predators. They dam up running water to create these deep-water pools.  They literally react to the sound of running water and use twigs and mud to dam up the moving water.  Besides creating these refuges they build lodges made up of the trees, twigs, mud, and rocks. They are usually strategically located in the middle of the ponds in a their dam and can only be access by underwater entrances for protection.  Inside these lodges store food, raise young, and seek protection from the winter weather. Through their industrious construction of dams and lodges they can change the course of rivers and create ponds and lakes where there had only been fields and forests.  The results of their work help store runoff, recharge ground water, and provide habitat for other species.  They improve water quality by creating filtration and slowing the movement of runoff so it has time to filter and for sediment to settle.

    In my history classes I learned about how early explorers in the Americas were shaped by the pursuit of the fur that these critters possessed.  AS beaver populations were exhausted on the east coast, the fur trade pushed exploration and settlement out west and, as a result, decimated beaver populations throughout America and Canada.  Beaver pelts were sought after for making clothing and beaver hats. Then as settlement expanded they were hunted to prevent them from doing what they do best, building dams.  Their industrious pursuit could result in flooded crops and homesteads. As they were hunted their population of 100-200 million dwindled to near extinction.  

    Today, through protections in the late 19thand 20thcenturies beaver populations have rebounded to estimated population of 10-15 million. Since that time they are still controlled but we’ve come to understand the ecological value of having beavers in our natural world. 

    In the Green River, beavers still make their space within the confines of the river gorge.  The one that I saw at Flaming Geyser was creating a lodge in a riverbank on the deep side of a turn.  They migrate as well and may be found in side or many of the springs and seeps that flow into the Green River Gorge.  Downstream as the Green becomes the Duwamish and is channeled into a narrow passage, government agencies are working to expand side channels and flood plains, which play an important role in salmon conservation. Perhaps there will be a place for beavers to help with the restoration projects to protect and restore the health of the river.  Within the Gorge, due to its isolation and lack of development, beavers may find a habitat free from the constraints of a human centered riverscape.

    For more info on beavers you can visit these websites:

  • Fri, 10 Aug 2018 21:24:25 -0400

    Hungry Beaver from Lisa Delfiner Parsons on Vimeo.This video is...

    Hungry Beaver from Lisa Delfiner Parsons on Vimeo.

    This video is about My Movie 1

  • Sun, 08 Jul 2018 22:30:10 -0400

    Summer Swimming Hole

    Late Summer Swimming Hole Below 

    A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea

    The description, A Whale Breaching From a White-Flecked Green Sea, was in an article in a local newspaper.  I read that and immediately knew without seeing the photo where that location was in the Green River Gorge. 

    Beyond the gate at the end of the parking area for the Green River Gorge Resort / Paradise area a series of old roads lead to different locations along the river.  Follow the road past the first left and take the second left toward the river.  Follow the primitive locals trail down along the hillside between the river and the uplands of the old town of Franklin.  Along the way you’ll see some old railway line.  

    Where the trail meets the river a giant rock spirals out of the deep green water like a whale.  White foam speckles the surface of the deep green color of the water.  At low water in July and August a rocky beach frames a deep green pool beneath the Whale rock.  A large flat rock sits in the middle of the pool.  Great for soaking up the sun on a hot day. 

    The river has changed in this area.  A few years ago a large slide came down the north side of the river sending a large mass of boulders, mud, and trees to form a new shoreline and add additional rocks in the river.  The Green River, like any river, is constantly changing.  The ground along the sandstone bedrock is fluid with heavy rain saturated ground giving way to the power of gravity.  The Gorge remains a deep ditch between two communities but within it is always changing.  Small beaches are eroded and new beaches are formed by the power of water.  Hillsides slough, and and trees topple.

    In the winter the river is wild.  The high water pulses and pushes against the sandstone cliffs carving bowls, tunnels, and smooth undulating walls.  In the summer the current at low water wanders slowly between exposed boulders and riffles tumble gently into deep languid pools.  It is in the summer that the Gorge is more friendly and inviting.  A swimming hole like this one beckons on those hot mid summer days when the frigid water is a welcome relief.

    As with any river use caution.  The Gorge is only a good place to swim in late July and August.  None of the trails in this area are officially maintained.  They are local’s trails and are often primitive and can be exposed in areas.  Use common sense.  Know your limits and enjoy the discovery of this amazing wild area just 30 miles from over 2 million people.

    To get there:  Turn east at the Cenex station on to Lawson Rd from highway 169 that runs thru Black Diamond.  Follow the road 4 miles down to the river.  Right before the one lane bridge turn right on to a gravel road and a wide open area with parking on the left.  Park, put your $5 into the box at the entry.  Walk to the end of the parking area past the gate that separates the private land from Washington State Parks land.  Follow past the first left and take the second left.  Follow it down to the river.

  • Sun, 01 Jul 2018 22:00:56 -0400

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Paradise Rediscovered

    Green River Gorge Resort

    The Bridge Overlook

    The road winds down a long hill.  As it turns it passes a couple of houses, a spring spilling out of the hillside and what looks like an overgrown R.V. park.  The blinking light is a stop sign to either stop or go for cars on either side of a one lane bridge.  Only one car from either direction can cross the bridge at a time.  The Green River Gorge Road (or Lawson Road as it is known in Black Diamond) crosses over one of the most beautiful sections of the Green River Gorge…and one of the more accessible areas outside of Washington State Parks.

    The Green River Gorge Resort has gone through many incarnations.  In the 1920s it was privately owned resort with a hotel, cabins, and a service station.   In the wild 70s and 80s it had a reputation as a party spot that drew locals and others who would come to jump off the cliffs and swim in the late summer.  I remember going with a friend in the 1980s to go swim. At that time the old resort had an $2 entry fee, a snack bar, and a closed private campground. Today the old dilapidated green building houses a manufacturing facility for underwater salvage equipment and still has the private campground but the area is much quieter.  In front it isn’t uncommon to see the local residents sitting outside on the old weather worn deck.  You might even see a peacock on the roof or strolling across the roadway as you pass by.  

    A few years ago the owners of resort and surrounding area on both sides of the river reopened access to the Gorge.  For $5 that you place in a box on either side of the river you can park and access this incredible oasis.  From the resort side of the river you park in a lot across the street from the resort building near a small pond.  Then you enter through a chain link gate on the left side of the Green resort building and step into another world.  

    A wooden staircase leads under the one lane bridge towering above.  It bends a way down to the river passing by a spring that forms the waterfall further down.  A platform has bench beside the spring and overlooks the river below.  The end of staircase transitions to worn sandstone pathways.  One trail leads to a cave behind the iconic waterfall that you can see from the bridge overlook above.  Behind the waterfall in the cave is an pool carved out of the sandstone. A steel lined fence runs along the permitter of the cave to keep anyone from falling.  Water droplets form rain beneath the eve of the cave as falls cascade past the opening, streaming down the sandstone face beyond the lip of the cave.  I’ve often wondered if the water in the carved stone pool was heated at one time because to sit in that cold water in the shade of the overhang would be quite frigid.

    Below the falls. When the river is low you can walk between two large overhanging stones to reach the waterfall.   Draped on the sides are maidenhair ferns.  On the other side of the stones in the other direction is a small rocky beach and another bath carved out of the sandstone.  From here you can enjoy a swim to the water fall or a float down the green alley to another beach farther down.  This area is only safe to swim at very low water levels that can be found only at the end of July and August.

    Beyond the stairs the trail continues further along a worn sandstone path between beds of bright green moss.  It turns beneath a stone archway made by two leaning sandstone rocks. Ivy hangs at the side of the doorway leading to the river beyond.  Walking through it feels like your entering a lost world of wilderness. There the trail continues across the sandstone and into a forest growing on the stones.  The footpaths are slippery.  Above the pathway is another smaller but taller waterfall cascades 100 feet above the river.  

    The trail reaches a sandstone overlook and then a sharp path leads down to a small moon shaped rocky beach right at a surf wave called Paradise Ledge.  A small pool behind the rocky outcrop next to the ledge is a great place to wade in on a hot summer day.  In the early part of the year you might catch a show of white water kayakers surfing the play wave.  In the fall you can glimpse a salmon leaping up the narrow ledge of water or resting in a small sandstone pool at the swift waters edge.

    On the other side of the river you can access the Gorge by turning west into a grassy parking area through an open gate.  Just beyond the gate is a cement and steel box for your $5 entry fee.  Park and follow the trail past the sign says “River Access” that is posted on a tree. From there a steep trail leads down to where the kayakers put in. From the kayaker’s trail you can find perches that overlook the falls and the green alley.  A sloping sandstone beach marks the entry and exit for kayakers and is a sunny spot at mid day along the river corridor.  From the parking area you can continue straight through another gate and explore the Old Town of Franklin and river access previously posted on my blog.

    Being able to access this part of the river is a treat.  For years it was closed and although I was given permission to explore the area for my conservation work it feels less like trespassing now that it is open to the public and can be enjoyed by all.  However, as with any privilege, all it will take is a few yahoos jumping off the cliffs, leaving their trash, or just being jerks for this area to be closed again.  So bring your curiosity, a good pair of skid proof shoes, and enjoy the area.  Please take your garbage with you and use common sense when accessing the water for swimming or floating.  

    My next blog post will be about the river downstream of the Gorge.  A secret swimming spot, a coal car, and a mushroom rock.



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